A FORMAL complaint has been submitted to Bradford Council over its "shameful dereliction of duty" in relation to damage caused to protected woodland in Ilkley. Last summer John Ogden, a landowner on Victoria Drive, angered neighbours when he ordered the removal of trees to the side of his property, which had previously been used as a woodland area by residents, and installed a new fence. He was later forced to remove the fence after being served a formal notice. Bradford Council had been considering taking enforcement action over damage to protected trees but has now closed the file. It says Mr Ogden has undertaken new tree planting - eight black pine and six flowering cherries - and officers are satisfied this mitigates tree enforcement breaches on the site.
But the move has sparked anger from residents including Paul Hardaker, of Victoria Grove, who has written to Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council asking for her to reverse the decision taken by Steve Hartley, strategic director, Department of Place.
Mr Hardaker said: "Mr Hartley’s decision to close the case file without a proper and thorough investigation into the full extent of the alleged damage and unauthorised works raises serious questions about the council’s commitment to protecting the local environment and its “zero-tolerance” of alleged offenders."
Mr Hardaker has provided photographic evidence to the council which he says shows "extensive unauthorised works including felling, lopping and pruning of protected trees as well as damage to their roots."
He added: "The council has done nothing to address or remedy the damage in the woodland - part of Ilkley Conservation Area - which has been left in an ugly and dangerous state."
The residents have been supported in their complaints about the removal of the trees by Ilkley's MP John Grogan and local councillors, including Cllr Martin Smith (Con, Ilkley) who said he was very angry at the closure of the case by Bradford Council.
Cllr Smith said: "I am shocked at the way the Council has treated this major abuse in our ward.
"The planting proposed is not woodland planting to match the woodland top and the local community had no say when this created a huge uproar on the repositioning of a fence and desecrated the TPO woodland and mature trees. This issue will be carried on in the community complaint procedure and beyond. The community will not be satisfied on the abuse of the area by the new resident and the failure of the council to adequately respond."
Mr Ogden had submitted a further planning application for a carport which would have involved the removal of another protected tree, but this has now been withdrawn.
Ilkley Town Council's planning committee has opposed the closure of the case and at it's last meeting Ilkley Town Council voted to support the planning committee.
A Bradford Council spokesperson, said: “A formal complaint has been received by the Council from Mr Hardaker which will be considered in due course.”
Mr Ogden has previously been approached by the Ilkley Gazette but declined to comment on the matter.